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Iraqi cleric calls 9/11 'miracle from God'

U.S. Marine, 5 Iraqis killed in Fallujah

Muslim worshippers fight to shred an Israeli flag after prayers Friday during a mock funeral for Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An influential Shiite cleric in Iraq called Israel's targeted killing of the spiritual leader of Hamas a "dirty crime against Islam" and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, "a miracle from God."

Moqtada al-Sadr delivered a charged sermon Friday at a mosque near the holy city of Najaf, blasting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas.

On Monday, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at Yassin as he left a mosque in Gaza City. Yassin and seven others were killed in the attack on the leader of what Israel, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist group.

Hamas' military wing has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.

But Friday, al-Sadr called Sharon the "biggest terrorist of all."

"He has committed this dirty crime and killed one of the greatest of Islamic mujahedeen," al-Sadr told hundreds of worshippers at the Kufa mosque. "This was once again a dirty crime against Islam."

He accused the United States of complicity in Yassin's killing and said Iraqis should react "in the way that satisfies God."

Al-Sadr led the worshippers in chants: "No, no Israel! No, no to the Jews! No, no America! No, no to terrorism!"

Al-Sadr railed against the United States' occupation of Iraq.

"I seek the spread of freedom and democracy in the way that satisfies God," he said. "They have planned and paved the ways for a long time, but it is God who is the real planner -- and the proof of this is the fall of the American twin towers."

He then referred to the September 11 attacks as "a miracle from God."

"As we say, 'The rain starts with a drop,' " he said.

Israel's targeted attack on Yassin provoked condemnation from many in the international community. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the killing violated international law.

The United States criticized the attack but stopped short of condemning it. On Thursday, the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned the assassination.

The killing reverberated through Iraq in protests across the nation earlier this week.

U.S. Marine, 5 Iraqis killed in Fallujah

Also Friday, a U.S. Marine, an Iraqi freelancing as a cameraman for ABC News and four other Iraqis were killed in gunbattles between U.S. forces and insurgents in Fallujah, the U.S. military and an Iraqi hospital official said.

Twenty-five Iraqis were wounded in the fighting, said the hospital official, Anass Ahmed Abbas.

It was unclear whether insurgents were among the casualties.

One Marine was killed and several others were wounded in the fighting, a U.S. military spokesman said.

A coalition statement said insurgents who challenged 1st Marine Expeditionary Force troops conducting security operations were "being engaged and destroyed."

ABC said the death of their freelance cameraman was the first for the American television network in the Iraq war.

"Sadly, today we learned of the death of our colleague, Burhan Mohammed Mazhour," ABC News President David Westin said in a statement. "An Iraqi citizen, Burhan had been working as a freelance cameraman for ABC News in Fallujah for about two months. He died of gunshot wounds while covering a firefight in Fallujah.

"We are trying to confirm all the details surrounding his death and have asked the U.S. military for an investigation. We will miss Burhan's dedication and professionalism. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Doctors told ABC that Mazhour, 48, was shot in the head by a single bullet and died at a hospital.

Fallujah -- on the western leg of the so-called Sunni Triangle -- is a hotbed of the anti-U.S. insurgency. Support for ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was strong in the region, which extends north and west of Baghdad.

Also Friday, an Iraqi who worked as a translator for Time magazine in Baghdad died from wounds suffered in a drive-by shooting earlier this week, the magazine said.

Omar Hashim Kamal died about 7 a.m. Friday (11 p.m. Thursday ET).

He was in critical condition at an American hospital after the shooting Wednesday, said Ty Trippett, a magazine spokesman.

Kamal was in a car on his way to an assignment close to the magazine's bureau when a car pulled up next to him and someone in it fired into Kamal's car, Trippett said.

Kamal, who was in his mid-50s, is survived by a wife and 4-year-old son.

"Ever since we opened our Baghdad office last year, Omar has proven invaluable in helping Time tell the story of Iraq to readers worldwide. We are forever in his debt," Time Managing Editor Jim Kelly said in a statement.

Several journalists and translators have been killed since the war began last year.

On March 18, a correspondent and a cameraman from Al-Arabiya were shot and killed by U.S. troops at a U.S. checkpoint in Baghdad, the network said.

The same day a Diyala TV crew, including a reporter, technician and security guard, were killed in Ba'qubah.

In January, two Iraqi CNN employees were killed and a cameraman was wounded in an ambush outside Baghdad. Translator and producer Duraid Isa Mohammed, 27, and driver Yasser Khatab, 25, died from multiple gunshot wounds. Cameraman Scott McWhinnie, traveling in another vehicle, was grazed in the head by a bullet.

Other developments

  • Also Friday, seven Iraqi insurgents were killed during an early morning raid by the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and U.S. military near Tikrit, a U.S. military spokeswoman said. Four defense corps members were wounded in the incident, which took place about 4 a.m. The U.S. military said members of the 1st Infantry Division provided support for the raid, which led to the capture of 21 people.
  • Witnesses heard explosions, possibly caused by mortar or rocket fire, in the Baghdad neighborhood of Haye Salam on Friday night. Eleven people were injured, witnesses said. One of the blasts took place at an abandoned Iraqi military camp, where scores of families have been living. The U.S. military said it sent troops to the scene.
  • CNN's Vivian Paulsen contributed to this report.

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